Still Grieving

Four months ago, on the day of the one year puja for Mamu, the priest tied red doro strings around our wrists in blessing. A similar red string is tied on during Indra Jatra, a festival in late summer, and cut off of the wrist and tied to the tail of a cow during Tihar. You only wear the Indra Jatra string for a few months, but I wasn’t sure how long we were supposed to wear these ones. “I guess until they get frayed and lose their color,” Tri told me when I asked him.

Finally, yesterday, my sting fell off. It just kind of unwound and came apart, and I started to reflect on the last four months that I’ve been wearing it.

When mamu died and I first became aware of the Hindu mourning process, I was shocked at how involved it is. 13 days of wearing white, eating only one meal a day, and seeing visitors all day long. 45 days of no meat. 1 year of no celebrations. All of that was such a contrast to the Western tradition with its one day of mourning, but I accepted it because I had to. Overtime I felt that the mourning period had its upsides, and I think we found solace in it.

Somehow, though, I thought we would be released at the end of one year. Like we had punished ourselves enough, we’d put in our time and could clock out and move on but it hasn’t been that easy. I remember during the one year puja for Mamu’s death, I felt a huge sense of relief. Getting the tikka and blessing from the priest after the hours-long ceremony made me feel like I could join the world again. But as the months have passed since that day in April, things haven’t felt all that different.

Overtime, the sad feelings and shock have ebbed, but our grief is still palpaple. For both Mamu and for my grandmother. I was looking at a pair of earings I wear that my grandmother gave me, and I just burst into tears thinking about her. I really miss her. I grieve for Mamu in a different way. I grieve for the person she was and the person I knew, but I didn’t know her for that long. Mostly, I’ve grieved through Tri and his family and for what I imagine our relationship might have grown into.

I just read this great book called Wild. It’s a memoir written by a woman named Cheryl Strayed who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail a few years after her mom died. After she experiences the heart-wrenching, premature death of her mother, she goes way out of wack, cheats on her husband, does heroin. Spending three months hiking helps her to bring her life back into focus. I loved the author’s voice and the stories she had to tell, but by the end of the book, I felt a false sense that everything had been fixed. It’s tempting to believe that doing something crazy or intense will cure all of our troubles. From what she writes, the journey seems to have re-centered her, removed her far enough from the infidelities and drugs so that she could move past them, but I doubt that she stopped grieving afterwards.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I thought that having the one year period to grieve would give us a way to fast track our grief and move on and be okay. Part of me desparetely wants to forget about everything so that we can live our lives. But really, I don’t think there’s anything that can dull the pain and confusion and anger of death except maybe time. We just have to grieve until we’re ready to be done.

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10 thoughts on “Still Grieving

  1. Cheryl Strayed wrote “Wild” many years after her mother’s death, so she was further along in her grieving. That may be why everything seemed to be so neatly tied up.
    What I realized after Grandma’s death is that there is no getting around the grief, I just have to go through it. It’s very painful but it is slowly getting better.

    • She did write it many years after…so maybe she was ready to be done grieving at that point. I had a strong reaction to how she describes her grief in the book She kind of went crazy after her mother died, in a way that I didn’t understand. The desire to cheat on her husband and the heroin use were foreign to me. And then she went on that trip and was suddenly much better. I guess the flip in extremes and the extremes themselves were what confused me. Although maybe it was more of gradual process that I’m making it out to be.

  2. I have a different view of grief. I think it is more akin to what I perceive as Hindu. I feel as if someone who you are very close to that dies gets reincarnated in yourself. That takes time but after a while laughter and appreciation replace sadness and loss.

  3. Thank you for writing about this Zoe. It was sad thinking about Mom at the beach, but really good to connect with family. We looked at photo albums she had put together of all of us and listened to the recording you made of her. I found it very comforting to hear her voice. Grief is certainly work. We all need to go through the process of feeling sad and then also feeling good thinking about the great times we’ve had. I believe that we carry her with us and we can talk to her whenever we to.

    • I’m really glad that we had a chance to record her talking about her childhood and life. It’s a great way to remember some of the stories she used to tell and what she sounded like, and I remember how fun it was to talk to her about her life while we did that recording.

  4. When P’s grandfather died a few months back we set up a little shrine for him in our living room. We put a picture of him dressed up nice for our Bhoj party, a small statue of Ganesh, a prayer scarf, a few springs of flowers and an incense holder. Two or three times a day P or I will light an incense. It keeps him in our hearts and our minds during this mourning period, and I like that there is something small we can do each day. I’m not sure if this is a “proper” thing to do or not, but it just feels right for us.

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